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Darwin Debuts Top Fuel Drag Racing Action

Filming on the start line with Team Rapisarda Image by Ed Forman If you missed it you weren't actually in Darwin that day, at ...

Filming on the start line with Team Rapisarda
Image by Ed Forman
If you missed it you weren't actually in Darwin that day, at least that was what it looked like from where we were standing at the start line of the Hidden Valley Drag Strip.  The crowds lined the fence on spectator hill as far down the track as we could see, they were dozens deep and spots on the grass were at a premium.

On the opposite side of the track, the VIP floor above pit lane was at capacity and there were people getting vantage points on any spare area of publicly accessible ground they could sit, stand or climb on to. 

The event they were all here for was round 1 of the 2015/2016 ANDRA Drag Racing Series season opener featuring Top Doorslammer and Top Alcohol categories, but the machines they were packing the grounds of the Hidden Valley Raceway to see were a category that has never been run in Darwin before and one that many drag racing fans have dreamed about having here for so long, the Top Fuel class.

The start line experience with Rapisarda Autosport International's Top Fuel
Cameras: +Auki Henry & +Salvatore Finocchiaro 

It was a matter of great excitement for the HighRPM crew when we found out some months ago that we would be covering such a happening. The debut run of Top Fuel in the Northern Territory, even just as an exhibition event would be a golden opportunity to capture a bunch of 'first ever' stuff. That's the kind of thing that keeps us fresh and excited.

Needless to say most of us were too busy during the peak of our annual production season to dwell on the passage of time leading up to this, although admittedly all our calendars were emptied and clearly circled for the date of the Top Fuel weekend which was dubbed "Nitro Up North".

Eventually 'lead-up' week arrived and there was finally just enough time for a bit of logistical planning.

Our photographers have an event routine that runs like a well oiled machine.  They can travel light and pack to the same equipment list with perhaps just a couple of small modifications depending on what conditions they expect to be shooting under. However on the video end of the equation we tend to have to lug around a pack horse load worth of kit to get the shots we want, especially for a debut event like this.

The video packing list for both days was the Arri Amira, 5DMK3, Panasonic AG-HMC41E on tripods, Sony FS700 shoulder rigged and the Panasonic AC-160 on Glidecam,  Not to mention the half dozen GoPro's and mounts that are mandatory in the motorsport cameraman's arsenal.

Yep equipment checked sorted and packed, batteries charged, strategy ... strategised.  All systems GO basically or so we imagined.  This was the first time Top Fuel had run on our home track, it was also the first time any of us had to document a Top Fuel run. The excitement and anticipation prevailed!

We're all pretty seasoned shooters at HighRPM but I have to admit only one out of the five crew managed to get a good result on that very first run.  The photographers had two head shaking 'that's not good enough' moments and one 'damn flash battery fail' moments.  In the excitement of the start line chaos I managed to not have slow mode selected on the FS700 (which on 'End Trigger' mode meant I actually didn't button on till the race was over).  Only our cameraman Terry managed to remain composed enough to capture a beautiful slow motion shot on the ARRI - check it out here.

Top Fuel at such close quarters has to be experienced to be believed, it's on a whole other level of drag racing and the atmosphere of everything from the prep and staging of the dragsters to the body cavity shattering vibrations of the launch and run is truly exhilarating.

Back to the media focus and it was lessons learned for the crew.  All were adequately prepared for the next run and the usual well oiled team thankfully had re-emerged from the shell shocked remains of that first experience.

The one thing that remained unchanged for all of us however was the apparent inability to wipe the goofy wide smiles off our faces every single time these beasts made a pass!

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The Official Auki Henry: Darwin Debuts Top Fuel Drag Racing Action
Darwin Debuts Top Fuel Drag Racing Action
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The Official Auki Henry
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